Arguably the most intriguing development heading into the 2011 World Superbike season will be witnessing how the Kawasaki team fares with the all-new – and much anticipated – ZX-10R.
Few will begrudge the manufacturer, which has finished bottom of the WSBK
standings every year since 2007, a return to prominence at Superbike level, and early indications suggest it is in for a strong 2011 campaign.
The bike, which was developed from scratch with racing in mind, has been competitive in testing, with Kawasaki making doubly sure of its investment's potential by completing the most private running of any manufacturer during the off-season.
With the factory PBM outfit expanding to three bikes to accommodate Tom Sykes – who was rightly rewarded with a renewed contract following his heroics on the dated 2010 machine -, he joins Supersport graduate Joan Lascorz and Chris Vermeulen.
A shrewd move by the team as question marks over Vermeulen's fitness continue to linger, this ensures Kawasaki will have at least two strong entries this year.
While Sykes is tipped to get the podium he arguably deserved last year, Superbike rookie Lascorz has shown himself capable of matching his more experienced team-mate in testing. Though his Superbike race craft remains unproven – and he too his recovering from injury -, Kawasaki have at least done a good job at developing this precocious young talent.
Elsewhere, Team Pedercini will remain as Kawasaki's satellite operative, the evergreen Italian outfit hoping to also take advantage of the all-new machine.
An unexpected line-up comprises of experienced Superbike and grand prix racer Roberto Rolfo, who returns after two years away from WSBK, while Mark Aitchison is a surprise choice given he sat out much of the 2010 season and has only two of Supersport racing under his belt.
Pedercini has struggled to lift itself off the back of the grid in recent years and while the new bike should reduce the margin to the front, even cracking the mid-field will likely continue to pose a challenge.